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Munich Neglect – Azov Package of Sanctions instead of Minsk Agreements

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The 55th Munich Conference on security issues featured no separate panel on Ukraine. The statement by NATO’s former Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that “from the strategic point of view, Ukraine plays a very big role” was an attempt to make the pot sweeter.

What did they say about security at the Munich Conference? In 2018, this issue, which was key for Ukraine’s leadership, was supported by the report of the former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen titled “Will the UN be able to unite Ukraine?” which was prepared by the American Hudson Institute in tandem with the Rasmussen Global Foundation. The focal point of Poroshenko’s speech and Rasmussen’s report was a peacekeeping mission in  Donbass.

At Munich-2019, the Minsk Agreements, which is an issue that guarantees  European security, as distinct from the so-called “Russian threat” and “Russian intervention”, were left without attention. Instead, the participants focused on the “Russian aggression in the Kerch Strait”, which provided a reason for debate thanks to the Ukrainian provocation in November last year,  which is presented as the “Russian aggression”. The Minsk Agreements were brought up to attention by the US State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who did it in a Jesuit manner: “We are always in favor of meeting and having a discussion. Russia shows no interest or progress on this issue. In fact, they made it clear they did not want to do anything during the presidential election. The special envoy also acknowledged that the Minsk Agreements are not producing the desired effect. “They (the Minsk Agreements – DB) never worked well, as Russia refused to implement them. There has never been a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry, or cooperation on this issue. ”  In other words, that Kiev is doing its utmost to stall and devalue the Minsk Agreements and that the West hasn’t been demonstrating any interest in them lately is Russia’s fault.

Last year Rasmussen reported about a draft peacekeeping mission in Donbass, this year he is talking about the possibility of Russian interference in the elections: “At present, we are all keeping a close eye on the election campaign in Ukraine, because it will be a testing ground, including in terms of Russia’s possible interference in the elections. I have no doubt that Moscow will try to resort to  measures and tools that could transform and be used also during the European elections in May this year and even in course of American elections in 2020.”

“There can be no global security or security in Europe without Ukraine,” Poroshenko said in Munich.  For Ukraine, European security means repulsing the “Russian threat” through sanctions, rather than working to resolve the conflict in the south-east of the country . As said above, the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy format received no attention in Munich this time. At a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Poroshenko concentrated on measures to  “coordinate actions to implement the Azov package of sanctions and on how to prevent the Russian interference in the presidential elections in Ukraine.” Poroshenko reported that he had discussed the Azov package with the Vice President of the United States Michael Pence: “We have thoroughly considered  coordination of our actions in response to the aggression in the Kerch Strait. We have thoroughly discussed further steps to impose sanctions and coordinate these sanctions with the sanctions of the European Union. We do count on cooperation, including in the defense sector, and in the supply of all types of weapons to Ukraine as we have adopted a law that allows the Ministry of Defense to import weapons directly.” The words of Michael Pence were perceived as a triumph of Poroshenko and Ukrainian diplomacy: “Let me send a very simple message to both you and the Ukrainian people:“ We are with you. ” The recent incident in the Kerch Strait serves as a reminder of the challenges that Ukraine faces because of the Russian aggression. I want to assure you that the United States supports Ukraine. ”

Ukraine had been getting ready for the Munich Conference in earnest, given that it is part of the election campaign of the official candidate to presidency and incumbent President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko. He had something to present for the attention of his foreign colleagues: the provocation on November 25, 2018 in the Kerch Strait, and amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, including a clause on joining NATO and the European Union.

Unlike the amendments to the country’s constitution, which is an internal affair of Ukraine, and a course for joining NATO and the EU, which does not depend on Kiev’s readiness but on the decisions of NATO and the European Union as such, the provocation in the Kerch Strait went off well, providing a good reason for sanctions from the US and the EU, and for anti-Russian rhetoric and politics in general.

Judging by the statements by Ukrainian experts, the outcome of the Munich Conference has received both positive and negative response in Ukraine. What upset Ukraine? That the “Nord Stream 2” Project will go ahead. The fact that the United States will not slap sanctions on Europe in connection with the Project.  The position of Kiev requires a fine balance. Ukraine does not like Trump, but he is the initiator of sanctions against Europeans in connection with “Nord Stream 2”. While Ukraine is committed to European integration, it openly welcomes  sanctions against Europe in connection with “Nord Stream 2” and favors the preservation of the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, as what they once dubbed as the  “a necessary condition for European integration.” A fairly tricky balance, in which the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy format are no longer visible.

How did the Munich Conference please Ukraine? By the coming sanctions, the so-called “Azov package.” What also pleases Kiev is some coordination between the US and Europe in the expected sanctions package, even if it boils down to just a few restrictions, which is not bad either. Europe has come up with the Azov Package, and sanctions based on the provocation in the Kerch Strait are due from the United States as well. Each of the parties initiating the restrictive measures pursues their own goals. The European Union will impose restrictions in the wake of the incident in the Kerch Strait, but, according to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, these sanctions will be exclusively personal ones, targeting  8 individuals.  This constitutes the entire policy of the European Union, which is anti-Russian, and in this the EU strikes a chord with the United States. However,  to spoil relations with Russia beyond repair is not on the agenda, particularly considering the agenda of the EU’s leading country, Germany. Berlin has a joint energy project with Russia – “Nord Stream 2”. Against this background, the “Azov package” from the EU, or in fact, putting a few people on the black list, is but a political and moral compensation for Washington, amid Berlin’s uncompromising position regarding the Nord Stream.

The Azov Package from the US will contain:

-sanctions against FSB agents who, according to the authors of the bill, are involved in the attack on Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait in November 2018;

-sanctions against the Russian shipbuilding sector, if Russia violates the freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait or anywhere else;

-sanctions for supporting projects to develop oil resources in Russia and sanctions against Russian oil projects abroad. “

European sanctions come as a tribute to the anti-Russian mainstream and are used to distract attention from Nord Stream 2. US sanctions reflect technological, political, and economic competition in shipbuilding and oil production. They create a threat to Nord Stream 2, the Northern Sea Route, and the Russian liquefied gas. Coordination of sanctions is currently visible only in their name and reliance on one provocative incident.

Nobody discussed Ukraine’s security at the Munich Conference, the Ukrainian panel was not even on the program. Perhaps, democratic countries, following democratic principles, thereby wanted to establish a democratic distance pending the presidential elections. What is obvious is that the West is interested in the  “Russian aggression” as one of the main components of present-day international politics, while Ukraine provides a good context and a very bright case within the framework of the anti-Russian policies of the West.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Defense

Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region

Asim Suleymanov

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The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.  

Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.

Today, the main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.


In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.

By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.

The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.

There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.

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Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons

Ali Raza

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After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.

Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.

Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.

During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.

The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.  

The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.

The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.

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Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States

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The Baltic States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise Saber Strike.

The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.

There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.

The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.

It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.

BulgarianMilitary.com  quoted  Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises. We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow every year.”

From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.

“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.

As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.

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